Hayneville Council meeting breaks down into chaos, terminated police chief threatens lawsuit

Published 11:49 pm Monday, May 14, 2018

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By Fred Guarino

The Lowndes Signal

With threat of a federal lawsuit against three council members, an alleged threat of arrest of another council member, a walkout and a breakdown into total chaos, the Monday, May 14 meeting of the Hayneville Town Council ended with no actions taken but approval of minutes.

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Mayor David Daniel and terminated Police Chief Kelvin Mitchell pointed out that Mitchell was terminated without due process. And Mitchell told the council that he is owed about $59,000 for the times he was interrupted from sleep to respond to calls over the past 13 years.

He also told Council members Sharon Reeves, Cynthia McDonald and Lula Tyson-Bailey, “There is a federal lawsuit for you and you and you.”

Appointed Council member Justin Pouncey was asked by Daniel to sit in the audience until Lowndes County 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge Terri Bozeman Lovell rules in an ongoing civil matter regarding an election to fill the council seat he currently holds.

While Pouncey did leave his council seat during the meeting, he said later, “Well, the chief of police threatened to arrest me if I didn’t step down.”  But Mitchell denied that claim.

When asked if he threated to arrest Pouncey, Mitchell said, “No, sir. I never used that word so far tonight. Is that what he told you?”

After Reeves, McDonald and Tyson-Bailey walked out of the meeting and returned, at one point, Tyson-Bailey wanted to adjourn Monday’s meeting until 5 p.m. Tuesday. But attorney Edward Kendall, who represented the town of Hayneville in the absence of terminated town attorney Michael G. Strickland, said once the three council members walked out, “There was no longer a quorum. The meeting was over.”

Council member Sharon Reeves said outside Hayneville Town Hall that Mitchell was terminated because of complaints from citizens who said he did not show up when called when they had robberies, and when there was gun violence on their street, and them seeing the person, he did not show up until the next day.

She said, “I mean, if you say you are on call all this time, and you get up out of your bed to come, you should be there.”

Daniel said after the meeting, “I was surprised that those three council persons left. What attorney Kendall was to do was to discuss as to why they couldn’t dismiss the town’s attorney.” He said, “It is in the code of the state of Alabama that the mayor is supposed to appoint the town’s attorney.”

About the termination of Mitchell, Daniel said, “I don’t know how that it going to work itself out.” He said the police chief should be given “due process” and, “He didn’t get any reason as to why they did it (terminated him) tonight.”

Mitchell called complaints cited by Reeves after the meeting of him not responding to calls “ludicrous.” He said, “I respond to each and every call.” He also said, “As much chaos that took place tonight, I don’t understand where we are.”

Mitchell did state, however, “I’ve got an attorney, and we are going to end up in federal court.”

He said, “The law clearly states… you must give me a preliminary hearing, suspension with pay before termination.”

He also called the situation with himself a “black and white” issue, “Because when a black man stands up to a white man, it’s like the world has come to an end.”

Mitchell thanked citizens who came out to support him at the council meeting.

The vote to appoint Pouncey to the council came on the heels of an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that upheld a previous ruling by Lovell that the May 23, 2017 election of Carole C. Scrushy was illegal and void.

However, Strickland said at the time, the meeting at which Pouncey was appointed was a special call meeting to set the dates for an election to fill the vacant seat and to vote on a municipal upgrade project only.

He said, “Only those items on the agenda can be voted on especially at special call meetings.”

Also, at a special called meeting in the absence of Daniel and Council member Kim Payton, the Hayneville Town Council voted to appoint Tyson-Bailey as mayor pro tem, to terminate town attorney Michael Strickland, to do away with the position of economic development director held by Helenor Bell, to terminate Police Chief Kelvin Mitchell and voted to have a town audit.

Strickland said following that action, “The town council does not have the ability to hire or fire the attorney for the town of Hayneville per Code of Alabama and the legal counsel of the Alabama League of Municipalities. The attorney as well as many other positions are controlled by the mayor only.”

However, Strickland told the Signal, the police chief is hired and fired by the council and the economic development position can be abolished by the council.

Answers regarding Pouncey’s status on the council or the need for another municipal election to fill the seat he holds are expected to come when Lovell rules in an ongoing civil matter regarding the election to fill that seat.

A hearing in the case was held in Lowndes County Circuit Court on Wednesday, May 2. But as of Monday night, it was reported that no ruling has been made in the case.